Thousands of protesters took to Sydney streets again this week to protest the NSW Governments new music festival restrictions and this has raised the issues around the still controversial lockout laws introduced over 5 years ago, just as a report on the negative economic impact of the lockout laws in Sydney is released.

Protestors including supporters of #KeepSydneyOpen formed in Sydney’s Hyde Park this week arguing that the NSW government’s festival guidelines for organizers are extreme, making every outdoor event a “high risk” and subject to a licence fee. These laws have added to the already restrictive lockout laws in Sydney’s effectively killing off the vital music and entertainment industry. Even well organised festivals are cancelling citing expensive licence fees and police costs as the main reason for closure.

These restrictions feed into the same issues still plaguing the controversial lockout laws in Sydney that have seen some parts of Sydney close down at night while other areas, not facing the same restrictions, have an unfair business advantage. Under Sydney’s controversial “lockout laws” introduced in February 2014, licensed venues in Central Sydney and Kings Cross were prohibited from admitting patrons after 1.30 am or serving alcohol after 3 am – although the times have since been relaxed by half an hour.  Many Sydney-siders recognise that the lockout laws have just moved problem behaviour into areas not as well-supported by police. Data from NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics since the lockouts were introduced (comparing non-domestic assaults/liquor offences 2013 to 2017) describes an increase in alcohol related assaults in Newtown and Pyrmont, offsetting any benefits of the reduction in Darlinghurst.

Christine Forster, (Liberal Councilor) and Alex Greenwich (Independent Member for Sydney) have been lobbying for the lockout restrictions to be lifted for this year’s 2019 Mardi Gras Festival. In 2018 lockouts were eased for just the night of the Mardi Gras Parade, and Forster and Greenwich are looking to see the restrictions relaxed across the entire week. Paul Toole, NSW Minister for Gaming & Racing has advised that Liquor & Gaming NSW is “currently reviewing arrangements” for Mardi Gras, but it is expected that their requests for an easing of restrictions will be rejected. Hotels and nightclubs in the area were hoping to provide entertainment options for the millions of visitors that come to Sydney for the week of the festival.

Renewed calls for the easing of lockout laws come as a Deloitte Access Economics report was published last week which estimates that Sydney’s lockouts had cost the city’s night time economy $16 billion in lost revenue. The report highlights that the current estimates for Sydney nightlife are worth around $27 million and support over 230,000 jobs, but that this could be extended easily if lockouts were removed.

For The Drop readers please note #KeepSydneyOpen maintains an anti-pokie policy